Confetti explode over a screen showing photos of Gustavo Petro and his running mate Francia Marquez after they won Colombia’s presidential election, Bogota, Colombia, June 19, 2022 (AP photo by Fernando Vergara).

In 2022, it’s easy to be an opposition politician, party or political movement in Latin American democracies, where the political environment is about as anti-incumbent as it can get. Including the victory by Gustavo Petro in Colombia earlier this month, the parties of incumbent presidents have lost the past 14 consecutive democratic presidential elections in the region going back to 2018. Latin America has gone from a region where incumbent advantage was a major factor in elections to one where incumbent parties almost never win. Of course, there is an obvious catch to this phenomenon: Once the opposition wins, it is no longer the […]

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa looks on during the presentation of the final report of the Zondo Commission, Pretoria, South Africa, June 22, 2022 (AP photo by Themba Hadebe).

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa rose to power five years ago pledging to pursue a policy of “radical economic transformation” and to stamp out corruption in the country’s politics. In his first speech after becoming the leader of South Africa’s ruling African National Congress in 2017, which preceded his accession to South Africa’s presidency the following year, he said that “corruption must be fought with the same intensity and purpose that we fight poverty, unemployment and inequality.” He further vowed to initiate his war on graft within the ANC’s ranks. But after more than four years in office as president of South […]

President Julius Maada Bio of Sierra Leone speaks during the U.N. Climate Change Conference COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland, Nov. 2, 2021 (Reuters pool photo by Hannah McKay via AP).

When Sierra Leone released the provisional figures of its population and housing census on May 31, the numbers suggested a population increase of 6.3 percent since the last count in 2015. That’s not an unexpected rise over a six-year period, given that the country’s estimated annual growth rate was 3.2 percent during the 10 years prior. Nevertheless, the way population growth was distributed across the country has sparked ongoing debate about the credibility of the census, particularly in anticipation of general elections next year. The country’s southern and eastern districts saw significant population jumps, with the biggest increases in Kenema, with […]

Gustavo Petro, presidential candidate with the Historical Pact coalition, waves upon his arrival to a polling station to vote in presidential elections in Bogota, Colombia, May 29, 2022 (AP photo by Fernando Vergara).

When Colombians went to the polls Sunday to choose a new president, both choices on the ballot meant change and more than a little uncertainty about the future. It’s no surprise, then, that now that the results are in, Colombia finds itself on edge, teetering between high expectations and high anxiety. The victory by Gustavo Petro, a former mayor of Bogota who once belonged to a radical leftist urban guerrilla movement, was above all a forceful rejection of the status quo. Petro promises profound change but speaks with the well-honed rhetoric of a smart, polished politician who has spent years […]

A delivery driver wearing a face mask to protect against the coronavirus waits at an intersection in Beijing, Nov. 26, 2020 (AP photo by Mark Schiefelbein).

For millions of Chinese citizens, delivery drivers have been key to surviving Beijing’s “zero COVID” coronavirus strategy. Amid rolling lockdowns and travel restrictions, e-commerce couriers have served as lifelines to communities under confinement, from massive cities like Shanghai and Chengdu to smaller provinces like Shenyang, all of which have implemented the strict isolation measures mandated under Beijing’s strict pandemic response. Under these conditions, in which leaving one’s residence for reasons unrelated to getting tested is impossible, access to food and other daily essentials has been scarce. Enter the gig worker. Delivery drivers, by and large, work under contract with courier […]

Erin Call wears a mask as she shops for groceries at Harmons grocery store, April 3, 2020, in Salt Lake City (AP photo by Rick Bowmer).

The dramatic rise of fuel prices worldwide, triggered by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, has set alarm bells ringing. With millions of people struggling to afford “record-high” prices of gasoline and diesel, many governments are now looking into introducing subsidies or tax discounts to alleviate the financial burden placed on their citizens. These initiatives are much needed. They could offer valuable relief to the poor, who have been hit hardest by the price hikes, and could prevent anger over cost-of-living increases from congealing into domestic political crises. However, they also showcase how short-sighted and reactive most governments of today are, considering policies like […]

Members of the Ethiopian military parade with national flags attached to their rifles at a rally to show support for the Ethiopian National Defense Force, in Meskel square in downtown Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Nov. 7, 2021 (AP photo).

During an African Union summit on humanitarian work in late May, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed affirmed his government’s “commitment to ensuring assistance reaches those afflicted by natural and manmade disasters,” and called on international partners to “scale up their support for humanitarian services across the continent.” The statement drew the ire of some commentators, who regarded it as an empty promise at a time when Ethiopia itself is enduring a dire humanitarian crisis, particularly in the war-ravaged northern region of Tigray and the neighboring regions, Amhara and Afar, to which forces under Abiy’s command have contributed. Nevertheless, Abiy’s statement […]

Indigenous Constituent Assembly representatives celebrate after the final vote on constitutional reforms, Santiago, Chile, June 14, 2022 (AP photo by Esteban Felix).

After a messy and controversial drafting process that had to be extended by three months, the text of Chile’s new constitution is mostly finalized. The final document is overly long, and many of its key promises will require substantial legislative guidance to determine how they should be implemented. Many on the political right feel as if they have been left out of the process, in part due to their own failures when the Constitutional Assembly drafting the document was elected. Meanwhile, many on the far left feel that the proposed constitution makes too many compromises and doesn’t go far enough […]

Protesters shout anti-U.S. slogans during a protest condemning President Joe Biden's decision on frozen Afghan assets in Kabul, Afghanistan, Feb. 15, 2022 (AP photo by Hussein Malla).

On Feb. 11, U.S. President Joe Biden issued an executive order that proposed a plan for the $7 billion of frozen Afghan reserves that have been locked up in U.S. financial institutions since the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in August. Half was to be placed in a trust that would benefit the Afghan people, with the rest remaining frozen until a U.S. court rules as to whether it could be used to settle the Taliban’s legal debts with the families of 9/11 victims. The president did not determine whether that latter portion could in fact be used for 9/11 reparations—but […]

Syrian refugees sit in a train and read a local newspaper with special pages in Arabic for refugees, Berlin, Sept. 9, 2015.

They were noticeable for seeming slightly lost at the train stations where they arrived and were greeted by volunteers providing assistance. A call from friends trying to find a place to stay for a recently arrived family would lead to a collective scramble to contact local welfare agencies. In the months that followed, chance meetings at a bar, football match or the workplace would lead a circle of friends to extend invitations to some of the newcomers, who in time would become familiar faces. Germany in the summer and autumn of 2015? Yes, but not only. And when traveling around […]

Protesters chant slogans and hold placards during a protest in Istanbul, June 1, 2020.

Nine years after the Gezi Park protests erupted in Istanbul and quickly spread to many other parts of Turkey, the “culprits” behind the demonstrations were sentenced in April. Civil society leader and philanthropist Osman Kavala was convicted of having attempted to overthrow the government and sentenced to life imprisonment; seven other co-defendants received 18 years. Like many other prosecutions in Turkey these days, the Gezi case was based not on evidence, but pure conjecture. Kavala has long been a target of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government. He had already been imprisoned for four years based on spurious accusations that […]

William Kamkwamba, inventor known as “the boy who harnessed the wind,” seen at Red Bull Amaphiko Academy in Durban, South Africa on June 18, 2019.

Just over a week ago, Forbes published its highly anticipated “30 Under 30” list for the African continent. As the publication’s editors put it, this list showcases the “best and brightest” young “trailblazers” in Africa working on everything from medicine to fashion. The annual publication of “Africa 30 Under 30” is just one part of Forbes’ larger effort to highlight and encourage entrepreneurship in Africa. It comes shortly after the company’s first ever Under 30 Summit in Botswana in April, which brought together the world’s “most elite young entrepreneurs” to hear from and network with leaders in government and business. […]

A protester lights candles to mark the anniversary of the 1989 military crackdown on the Tiananmen Square protests, outside the Victoria Park in Hong Kong, June 4, 2021 (AP photo by Kin Cheung).

The events of June 4, 1989, in Tiananmen Square were part of a distinct moment in time. At the heart of what took place there that day was a question of succession hovering over Deng Xiaoping, the then-paramount leader whose stewardship of the Chinese Communist Party stood at a crossroads following the death of Hu Yaobang, the CCP’s former general secretary. June 4 was an opportunity for the protesters in Tiananmen Square to communicate not only to their political leaders, but also to Mikhail Gorbachev, the then-leader of the Soviet Union who was visiting China at the time. The square […]

Ukrainian refugees wait near the U.S. border, April 4, 2022, in Tijuana, Mexico (AP photo by Gregory Bull).

The images from Poland earlier this year were inspiring: As refugees began to cross Ukraine’s western border, Polish citizens poured out of their homes to receive them. They set up soup kitchens at the border and established caravans to shuttle refugees to train stations. They opened their homes and beds to families passing through, and as the days went on, a stream of international grassroots volunteers showed up to support the relief effort. As the weeks passed, however, many Poles began asking, Where is the national government in all this? Some were angry that the Polish government took credit for their grassroots […]

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi is greeted at the opening session of the 33rd AU Summit, where he handed over chairmanship of the bloc to South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Feb. 9, 2020 (AP photo).

Last weekend, the African Union hosted two summits in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, aimed at tackling Africa’s humanitarian and political crises. The events were scheduled ahead of the 20th anniversary of the continental bloc’s establishment in July. The first, held on Friday, May 27, was a humanitarian summit and pledging conference examining the root causes of the continent’s humanitarian crises, while the other, on May 28, was centered on terrorism and unconstitutional changes of government as drivers of instability. The gatherings sought to identify long-lasting solutions to the many humanitarian and political challenges across the continent, with special emphasis on financing, post-conflict recovery, […]

Michelle Bachelet, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, speaks during a news conference at the European headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, on Dec. 9, 2020 (Keystone photo by Martial Trezzini via AP).

For the past week, China’s state-controlled media has been gushing about the benefits of the recent visit to the country by Michelle Bachelet, the United Nations’ high commissioner for human rights. Its reaction summarizes the results of the disastrous trip to a country that stands accused of committing genocide against ethnic Uyghurs and other Turkic minorities in the northwest Xinjiang region; crushing democratic freedoms in Hong Kong; smothering human rights in Tibet; and engaging in increasingly authoritarian behavior across the rest of the country. Activists had hoped Bachelet’s visit—the first by a U.N. human rights commissioner in 17 years—would give […]